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Re: [xmca] Word Meaning and Concept
People have complained that the bowdlerized version of "Huck Finn" makes it impossible to gauge, critically or otherwise, Twain's actual attitude towards black people. I think, actually, including the word makes it pretty unteachable. But I have a suggestion for teaching the new version.
John Sutherland (of University College London) once wrote an essay in which he pointed out the curious fact that Jim has a wife and child at the beginning of the story but not at the end. Jim's daughter is the subject of one of the most affecting and effective stories which go into creating Jim as a character: he issues commands to his daughter, is not obeyed, and beats her, but begs for her forgiveness when he discovers that she has gone deaf during a recent illness. At the end, though, instead of trying to buy back his wife and children, he simply rejoices in his newfound wealth (because slaves are worth good money and Jim belongs to himself), which he attributes to his hairy chest.
I always thought this carelessness on Twain's part (and, despite the prefatory note on his use of dialects, Twain IS a careless writer, or at least a tired one) was much more demeaning to American literature's first truly realized black character than the use of what was, after all, standard usage even in my Dad's day. And the careless reader finds himself complicit in this injustice: if Widow Douglas turned up a husband on the last page, we'd notice. More proof that word meaning changes, and is not equivalent to concept.
On a different note, though: in Chapter Seven of Thinking and Speech, Vygotsky describes "inner speech" as monologue rather than dialogue. On the other hand, it has ALL of the attributes of dialogue developed to an extreme degree: ellipsis, predicativity, and shared context of feeling. One possibility is that Vygotsky sees "me" and "myself" as two different people. Another is that it is monologic in thinking but dialogic in speech. And a third is that, like Twain, Vygotsky is a careless writer.
Seoul National University of Education
--- On Sun, 6/12/11, mike cole <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
From: mike cole <email@example.com>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Word Meaning and Concept
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sunday, June 12, 2011, 8:42 PM
That is to compacted and complicated for me to be able to gloss to myself,
I am struggling with the polysemy of both "meaning" and "concept" in this
discussion to make sense of their relationship very well. Ditto sign and
symbol, although Huw's
note about signs and shadows nudged me along. I noted that Anton referred in
a recent note to "tool and sign/symbol" and wondered what he meant, but was
too preoccupied to ruminate.
Here is a thought I had while ruminating. Might it be appropriate to say
that meaning is a tool of human processes of concept formation ?
PS- There was a fascinating segment on the American Evening TV Program, 60
minutes, this evening.. A controversy about "The N word" , the banning of
Huck Finn, and the success of a book which substitutes the word "slave" for
the word "nigger." One proponent of the argument for using slave was teacher
who is shown in class discussing "the n word", asking her class, "why do we
say the N word instead of 'n-i-g-g-e-r' spelling it out?"
Now THERE is an example of the power of the book!! At least I am not alone
confusions about such matters. :-))
On Sat, Jun 11, 2011 at 8:17 PM, David Kellogg <email@example.com>wrote:
> This is Evald Ilyenkov, "The Concept of the Ideal', in "The Ideal in Human
> Activity", Pacifica, CA: MIA, p. 268:
> "The meaning of the term 'ideal' in Marx and Hegel is the same, but the
> concepts, i.e. the ways of understanding the 'same' meaning are profoundly
> different. After all the word 'concept' in dialectically interpreted logic
> is a synonym for understanding the essence of the' matter, the essence of
> phenomena which are only outlined by a given term; it is by no means a
> synonym for 'the meaning of the term' which may be formally interpreted as
> the sum total of 'attributes' of the phenomena to which the term is
> Ilyenkov then goes on to discuss Marx's cuckoo-like propensity "not to
> change the historically formed 'meanings of terms'" but to propose very
> different understandings thereof, and thus to change the very concept.
> Three questions:
> a) In addition to the ONTOGENETIC argument against the equation of meaning
> and concept (viz. that if meaning were already equivalent to concept then
> meaning could not develop into a concept), can't we make a SOCIOGENETIC one?
> Doesn’t this sociogenetic argument explain both the cultural adaptation of
> concepts over time (e.g. “quantity” into “operator” in math, “grammar” into
> “discourse” in linguistics) and the cuckoo like exaptation of other people’s
> terms to express quite different concepts by Marx and by Vygotsky (e.g.
> "egocentric", "pseudoconcept", etc.)?
> b) Viewed sociogenetically, isn't this distinction between conceptual
> essence and word meaning the same as the distinction between signification
> value and sense value? That is, from the point of view of Johnson's
> dictionary (or the Kangxi dictionary, or the Port Royal grammar, or any
> other state codification of meaning) the state-ratified meaning of words is
> their essence and the other, vernacular uses are simply senses, folk values,
> the range of phenomena to which hoi polloi apply the words?
> b) Isn't the OPPOSITE true when we look at the matter microgenetically?
> That is, from the point of view of interpersonal meaning making, the essence
> of the phenomenon to which I apply the term in the given instance is the
> self-legitimated, auto-ratified, individually-approved sense value and the
> signification value is simply the range of conventional meanings, the range
> of conventional phenomena to which the word is applied and misapplied by
> David Kellogg
> Seoul National University of Education
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